After 30 hours of traveling, we finally arrived in Sarajevo and made our way to our hostel. The next four days were a whirlwind introduction to an amazing country.
(view from our hostel patio)
Day 1 – War Crimes Tribunal and Tour of Sarajevo
Our first day we woke up bright and early to make our way to the War Crimes Tribunal. This was where many of the criminals were tried for crimes committed during the war…if you couldn’t tell by the name. We watched a video displaying how witnesses choosing to testify confidentially were portrayed to the court. This was interesting because without identifying information such as where the event took place, who they were, and names of others present, it was more difficult for the prosecution to prove the defendants’ guilt. However, other witnesses who choose not to hide their identity testified under fear they might be harmed due to speaking out.
Then we went on a 3 hour tour of Sarajevo where we got stranded during a thunderstorm, conveniently at the brewery, causing the tour to last much longer. The Brewery was the only place Bosnians under siege in Sarajevo during the war were able to get water. We also crossed over the bridge where the Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand was killed, beginning World War I almost exactly 100 years ago. It was interesting to see so much history within a city that many Americans know nothing about.
Day 2 – Off to Tuzla and Srebrenica
Next we went on a 3 hour bus ride that also ended up lasting over an hour longer, to Tuzla. In Tuzla we visited the International Commission on Missing Persons where they identify the bodies found in the mass graves outside Srebrenica and the surrounding towns through DNA. After the war, the ICMP began the first identification process of its kind paving the way for other devastating events such as September 11th and Katrina.
Later we went to the memorial site where thousands were buried after being identified. There we also met an amazing survivor who, as a teenager, fled Srebrenica when the genocide began and made his way to Tuzla, narrowly avoiding Serb soldiers along the way.
Day 3 – Meeting Another Amazing Survivor
On the third day we went to a women’s house where she told us of her story. During the mass murders at Srebrenica, she lost both her 16 and 17 year old sons as well as her husband. Over 10 years later, she testified in person against one of the major war criminals. When I asked her why she wanted to testify in person she said she wasn’t afraid because she had nothing more to lose. This incredible women had lost everything yet on this day she was opening her home and offering food and coffee to 15 of us and so thankful that we were visiting her.
Day 4 – Finally We Rest & Reflect
Today we were finally able to rest, explore the city and try different foods. First we met a bunch of locals who showed us awesome places to hang out. Next we tried some amazing restaurants, one in which there were pickles in my Stroganoff. Then we shopped and explored.
This was also an amazing reflection day for our introduction to Bosnia. Thinking of everything we have seen and experienced, it is amazing how little we learn in the states about Bosnia as there have been so many historical events, innovations and incredible people.